COVID-19 OUTBREAK AND THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY: EFFECTS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS - THE NEW DAWN ONLINE

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

COVID-19 OUTBREAK AND THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY: EFFECTS, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS


By: Uformadu, Ikechukwu John


“No one is without troubles, without personal hardship and genuine challenges. The fact may not be obvious because most people don’t advertise their woes and heartaches. But nobody, not even the purest heart escapes life without suffering battle scars. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in terms of challenges and controversy”- Martin Luther King Jr.

The iconic quote resonates perfectly at this moment in time when we are confronted by a ‘light affliction’, an endemic virus that has turned pandemic, and ravaging lives without sparing out our economy with a ripple effect on our transportation industry and challenging us to be our best selves.

It is no news that Nigeria is embattled by a common plague called Corona virus otherwise known as COVID-19. This virus was first confirmed in Nigeria on 27 February 2020, when an Italian citizen in Lagos tested positive for the virus, caused by SARS-COV-2 which has later extended its threshold across the borders of the country. The novel Corona virus (CoV) is a new strain of Corona virus. The disease caused by the novel Corona virus first identified in Wuhan, China has been named Corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) - ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ stands for virus and ‘D’ for disease. The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold. The virus is said to be transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person generated through coughing, sneezing, and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.


It is in line with this deadly and poisonous effect of the virus that the Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR has sensitively ordered a curfew in other to curtail the spread of the virus. This also came with a directive on March 23 on the closure of all ports and forestalling every movement. This painful decision has however stirred a strong contention in the transportation industry as to what is left with it.

The transportation industry is a sector or ministry responsible for transportation within a country with specific responsibilities of overseeing road safety, civil aviation, and maritime transport, rail transport, developing government transportation policy, organizing public transport, and the maintenance and construction of infrastructural projects. Its mandate is to ensure fast, safe, efficient, affordable, convenient, integrated and inter-modal transport system that facilitates Nigeria’s socio-economic developmental needs and enhances the quality of life of the public. Other parastatals under this ministry includes; Nigeria Railway Cooperation (NRC), Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Nigeria Maritime Administration And Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology Zaria (NITT), Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), etc.

Since the inception of Corona virus outbreak in Nigeria, the virus has rattled the economy, disrupting virtually every major industry, from food, fashion and entertainment to automobile, technology, education and transportation. The transportation sector has been one of the primary victims of COVID-19. From marine lines, to airlines, railways and highways all have been affected economically by the pandemic. Due to the lockdown, the demand for passenger transport has been adversely hit, resulting in sharp reductions in transport demand also on regional and continental level. Commuters have resoughted to operating their businesses from the comfort of their homes through internet connections and other computer software and application in other to contain the virus consequently, transport systems are abandoned and dormant, hence, capitals and investments are left to rots.

It is highly likely that the Corona virus outbreak will have longer-term impacts on our individual behavior and lifestyle, the way we work, consume and travel. As public transport is directly linked to economic development and dependent on fares and subsidies, loss of revenue is most likely inevitable. Besides the loss of revenue, higher cost for frequent cleaning of vehicles and facilities or increased train frequency over a longer period of time can put additional financial burdens.
 

Consequent to the inherent, subconscious and conditional nature of man, - Fear, will pose a great challenge to the transportation sector as it may determine the behavioral change in the people, subjecting people to travel by private means as averse to public transport. Adventure and tourism may be suspended for the fear of the pandemic.

Again, the pandemic has revealed that biological threats are real to the national security and thus crisis management capabilities have to become a real requirement as this would pose a very great challenge to the transportation industry.

It is no gainsaying that people have been badly affected by the lockdown order, little or no profit has been made since the directives was made by the government, of course it will be very difficult for the people to think of adventure at this time, even when the need arises, the fare, taxes and permit levied by the government may seem unaffordable and this may pose a challenge to the transport system.

While every country; developed, developing and under developing countries affected by the pandemic are in the bid to oust pass and thrive, unteachability on the side of the sector’s personnel may pose a very great challenge. The sector must be able to learn and inculcate ideas and strategies adopted by other countries to surmount the loopholes already created by the pandemic. More so, the role of skilled manpower cannot be kept at bay at this crucial moment as lack of zeal and passion induced by the prolonged lockdown may pose another challenge to the industry. Therefore, workers must intensify their efforts to align the transport sector on the front burner of the economy.

Though, COVID-19 pandemic has negatively dislocated and shutdown industries and economies, there seems to be some unique opportunities attached to it, such as helping the sector to reposition itself to be broader in business approach and seamless. Before the outbreak of the virus, Nigeria economy had great potentials for growth; it is currently the largest in Africa with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $446.543 billion (2019). The transportation sector contribution to Nigeria’s GDP increased to $720.241 million in the third quarter of 2019 from $642.927 million in the second quarter of 2019 and contributed 2.49 percent to nominal GDP in Q1 2019, an increase from 1.85 percent recorded in the corresponding period of 2018, higher than 2,05 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The importance of the transportation sector as the gateway to the economy of nation cannot be overemphasized, especially because transportation is an essential service needed all over the world to move passenger, goods and services with safety and security as its fundamental objective in delivering quality service.

With the further gaps created by the pandemic and complimented by other loopholes created by agencies of the system, one of which is the exploitation by members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), there is a grand stride for the transport system to thrive. There will be ample opportunities for investors in the transportation industry. It is with no doubt that there would be need for more transit buses, aircrafts and other transport systems to contain passengers to their destinations as there would be massive troop of boarders upon lifting of ban. More so, with the social distancing precaution, if passengers are to seat with social distancing rules obeyed then the need to purchase and build more vehicles, trains, and aircrafts among other transport systems is expedient to mobilize people without rescheduling appointments.

It is worthy of note that the window of the pandemic (lockdown) is an avalanche opportunity for the transport system to design road policies, to focus on people not cars and prioritize the cheapest, quickest and easiest way to get around the world – by this, the industry is certain to make a SMART improvement and profit, hereby replacing the transportation system as an elementary instrument for economic development.

These road policies should include maximizing congestion on our roads, unnecessary parks that will commensurate with the desired goals and profits. As the apothegm connotes, “there’s light at the end of the tunnel”, Nigeria transportation industry can still rise.


About the author:

Uformadu, Ikechukwu John is a Nigerian. He is a prolific educator, a content writer and developer. He is an author of poems and currently writing a story. His hobbies include: writing, reading, teaching, travelling and sports. He's passionate about a new Nigeria.

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